The Unplanned Bivi Story - what are some of yours?

Post general questions and discuss issues related to climbing.
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by McCannster » Tue Sep 21, 2010 3:50 pm

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by rpc » Tue Sep 21, 2010 4:00 pm

early in the career, went up a hill in a national park here in the PacNW aiming to do a car to car day outing. you know - light and light that some essentials (let us not name them...for eg. starts with a "c" and ends with an "ass") were omitted. on the summit weather moved in & visibility moved out. on descent dropped off the ridge in a wrong notch...wrong notch turned into a wrong valley & wrong side of the range....afternoon turned to evening and fog turned to rain...a makeshift shelter was quickly build out of evergreen branches & ropes and a long night with a single pack serving as a foot/leg warmer was endured. on the positive side, we were a married couple so spooning did not make for awkward moments in the morning. morning arrived ever so slowly but was clear. key waypoints could be located and a long cross country hike had to be completed before an awkward phone call went out to our bossmen at noonish.

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Bill Kerr

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by Bill Kerr » Tue Sep 21, 2010 4:23 pm

Dingus - well told story and a good example about character. Most unplanned bivies are just shivering with no lessons learned.

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by billisfree » Tue Sep 21, 2010 4:30 pm

I did one... not as dramatic as yours.

It was only a day hike, a 4,000 foot climb to Mt. Defieance in the Columbia Gorge.
I picked this route because it was raining on the west side of the Cascade range... and was hoping it would be dry on the leeward side.

At 2,500 feet the trail was under snow. At 3,000 ft the trail was under four feet of snow. But there were colored markers in the trees... so I kept going. Eventually the colored markers stopped, but the summit was visible.

I doubled back, being most careful to follow my own snow tracks back. It was quite foggy and dense forest and the ridge was rather broad, i.e. not clearly defined. I encountered a frozen section of snow where my tracks didn't show. Judging by the majority of the tracks "by others" I took the wrong direction down.

I descended, obviously in the wrong direction... until I reached the snowless terrain. But I never could pick up the trail. It was getting darker and darker and I was being most carefull not to stumble or trip over any of the countless windfalls.

Finally... the verdict is in. The terrain is steep and dangerous... not wise to move in the dark.

Fortunately... I carried a 32-deg sleeping bag as a "pack stuffer" to fill my nearly empty pack. And a space blanket.

My cell phone worked. So I called my daughter to inform that "I'm screwed for the night". She said, "call 911". It seemed like a smart thing to do - just let somebody know where I am.

From that call... this thing became a full-blown rescue... not something I was expecting. "I'll get you out in the morning, stay dry, stay warm", the sheriff said.

It rained some, but I stayed warm and dry. Morning came with dense fog and no way to figure out where I was. My phone conked out from dampness. Since I had people looking for me... I HAD to stay put. When the fog lifted some, I realized I was on very steep terrain only a few feet from a sheer 100-ft drop off, in a narrow canyon.

I could hear an airplane in the distance, but no one would be able to see me.

A couple of hours later, the skys cleared and the airplane was back. This time he spotted my orange space blanket that I hung out. He made another pass, then radioed my position.

A couple of hours later, a volunteer from the Hood River Craig Rats got to me. He showed me the way to the trail... only about 100 yards away! Getting out was EASY, EASY, EASY! IF - you know the way out.

Originally I was considering following a creek out. My rescuer said it was not possible to get out that way - because of the cliffs below.

My "rescue" didn't make the news. However another hiker got lost in the same area a week later - and made the news.

Word of note... most SAR (Search and Rescue) involve day hikers who are not prepared to spend the night out. Few of these rescues ever make the news.

At least I was prepared.

Ever since, I ALWAYS carried a GPS. I've saved my time and occassionally my butt more than once with it. It ain't macho to carry a GPS, but I love the security of knowing where I am in trailess forests and fog.

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by dan2see » Tue Sep 21, 2010 5:30 pm

We go to the mountains to learn about life and living.

I know from your writing that you have learned a lot.

Good story, Dingus. Thanks!

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Augie Medina

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by Augie Medina » Tue Sep 21, 2010 7:43 pm

Good story Gary. A little too much machismo for breakfast that morning?

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by fatdad » Tue Sep 21, 2010 8:31 pm

Three spring to mind though I'll refrain from boring everyone with details:

1. Failed attempt to climb the West Face of El Cap in a day. Luckily we had jackets and it was a warm night.
2. One day ascent of Space Shot in Zion, where we reached the top in fading light. We had heard that some guys who recently climbed in 3 hours took 2 hours just on the descent (which are supposed to be raps), so we figured we should shiver it out rather than doing a bunch of dicey raps in the dark. Next morning we find the raps no problem and are down in an hour without problem. We later learned that fast party took so long because they took the wrong descent.
3. Uneventful climb of Clyde Minaret that went horribly wrong when, only 40 ft. into our descent, my partner fell when a loose block pulled, which landed on his lap some ten feet lower. The block kept going but my partner luckily was able to stop his roll. Long, cold, miserable night (particularly for him) and rescued the following day by a Blackhawk. Good thing I brought my cell phone.

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by kamil » Tue Sep 21, 2010 10:17 pm

Good stories, folks.

After the moonset everything takes weird colours and shapes. Lichens on the rock look like some black monstrous creepy-crawlies. I still get this wacky impression that there’s someone third with us. Perhaps it’s just a figment of my half-asleep imagination. I shiver... brrr, bloody cold. Jumping and moving my arms, I try to warm up. I can’t discern the rock face from the valley below us. There is no more light visible at Gusinje and Plav, maybe just some pale afterglow. In Grbaja I can see two bright lights next to each other. Our Eko-katun perhaps? The Plough has travelled a long way across the sky, only the Pole Star sticks to her place, as if she wanted to give us back some sense of reality.

- How long till dawn?
- Not much, about an hour.
- Know any other spoonerism?
- Pheasant plucker’s cunning stunt.

(from my next TR :) )

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by dadndave » Tue Sep 21, 2010 10:37 pm

My son and I retreated off Mt Earnslaw (NZ) in a storm. Only got half way down and had to spend the night under the shelter of a huge and comfortable rock bivy at Kea Basin. Plenty of fresh water dribbling off the outside edge all night for making limitless hot tea. Somebody had even scattered dry tussock grass on the floor!

Not very interesting, I know. I just wanted Dingus to know how warm and dry and comfy it was :D

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by fatdad » Tue Sep 21, 2010 10:37 pm

Dingus Milktoast wrote:I seem to recall something about that 3rd'un dad. Maybe I'm mixing it up with something else. Partner recover ok?

From what I heard he healed up pretty well. Oddly enough, after that he never spoke to me again but a mutual friend of ours said he was doing fine and climbing again.


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